By JON SCHMIDT
MUSCODA - The Riverdale School District’s $7.9 million operating referendum going to voters on April 6 would create more space for junior high students, remodel and enlarge the front entrance and add a new agriculture lab classroom.
If approved, the proposal would allow the district to exceed its state-set revenue caps for 19 years, starting with the 2022-23 school year. For the first five years, the district would exceed its cap by $700,000 per year. After that, the amount would drop to $315,000 per year.
In addition to combating budget shortfalls driven by the district’s declining enrollment, the plan will allow the district to pay off debt on some building renovations and repairs and then borrow more funds to pay for a list of new capital projects. One of the main projects calls for creating a junior high wing in the high school building for seventh and eighth graders by adding classrooms, separate restrooms and lockers, and a commons area for gathering.
“The junior high addition will help us manage our class sizes,” explains Superintendent Jon Schmidt, noting that class sizes in the 7th to 9th grades have been averaging 26-30 students instead of the recommended 20-24 because there aren’t enough classrooms available.
“Currently we have four teachers who do not have classrooms designated as their own and who float from room to room,” Schmidt continues. “Adding a junior high wing will allow us to add restrooms and add lockers for junior high students. This will allow us to remove lockers from the academic hallway, widening the hallway where we have the most traffic.”
The junior high wing was recommended by two facility needs assessments done by the district. Other recommended projects include a remodeling of the front office area, adding square footage for office space and meeting rooms. The area will also be reconfigured to create a more secure entry point to the building. Restrooms will be enlarged and remodeled to make them ADA accessible. Piping infrastructure will also be replaced.
The front office work will encroach on the current art room so a new art room will be created out of an existing agriculture classroom. A new agriculture classroom that accommodates laboratory work will then be added on the north side of the little theater classroom, closer to the greenhouse.
“Our Agriculture and FFA program has always been a strength for our school district and community,” Schmidt says. “We manage a school farm which has 40 acres of tillable land and sound forestry plan. The new classroom will allow us to better serve our classroom classes such as Food Science, Animal Sciences, Crops and Soils, Greenhouse Management and many more. This curriculum is predominantly hands-on and this classroom will give us that ability.”
If the April referendum is approved, for the first five years the district plans to use $385,000 of the additional $700,000 in operating revenue to address projected budget shortfalls by balancing the budget, maintaining current staff and programming and reducing class sizes in grades 7-9. The rest of the additional revenue will be used to pay off debt incurred by building repairs and renovations.
For the remaining 14 years of the referendum, the district will use the $315,000 in additional operating revenue to pay off debt incurred by borrowing for the junior high wing and front office projects, as well as the new art room and agriculture lab classroom.
Since a previous operating referendum passed in 2017 will expire with the December 2021 tax bills, passing the April referendum will allow the district to immediately move forward with its building plans, Schmidt said.
If approved, the April referendum would mean that a taxpayer with a home valued at $100,000 would pay an additional $27 a year for 2022. By 2023, the tax impact would fall to an additional $18 a year. Because district officials have worked to keep the mill rate low, the tax impact of the April referendum would still be below historical tax rates.For more information, please visit the district website @ www.riverdale.k12.wi.us or contact Schmidt at firstname.lastname@example.org or (608) 739-3832.